The annual CMJ Music Marathon began in 1983 to assemble artists, media and industry types in an effort to promote new music. As founder Robert H. Haber puts it, the original goal was "to put a face to the music we were writing about in CMJ (College Music Journal, a weekly trade publication for college radio stations)." The faces weren't always well-known. The Music Marathon helped fuel the careers of such big-names acts as NIN, R.E.M., Tool, The Fugees, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Rage Against the Machine by allowing them to play in front of large numbers of people long before they had become household names. This week, over 900 bands and 8,000 registrants have converged upon the streets of New York for four nights of non-stop music, panels, schmoozing and a possible peek at the next big thing. Addicted To Noise correspondent Eric Arum is there to gather some of the detail. Here is his first report:
The 1997 CMJ Music Marathon
NEW YORK -- No, the CMJ MusicFest didn't hand out playbills, but they should have. It might have read: "Welcome to Avery Fisher Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Today's scheduled performance features vocals by Marilyn Manson."
The music marathon takes place at night in the downtown clubs, but it
shifts uptown during the day, where CMJ holds its annual seminar series at
Lincoln Center. The audience of music industry insiders that packed
the hall for Manson's keynote speech Thursday afternoon was just as well-pierced and tie-dyed as they would be on any other night, but even the seats in Lincoln Center make you sit up straight and behave yourself. It wasn't rock 'n' roll; it was more like a school assembly. It even featured something of an assistant principal at a podium, warning kids (aka the press) not to take pictures.
Out walks Marilyn Manson, well-tailored in a black suit and red shirt,
preparing to deliver the keynote address of the CMJ MusicFest. The only thing outrageous about him was the blood-red lipstick he wore. At least that was the only visible thing that stood in stark contrast to the tradition that surrounded him.
Then he started talking.
"I think it's pointless for me to get up here and talk about the defects
and the faults of mankind today, because when you really get down to it,
we're all just monkeys, and whenever we try to be anything more than that
is when we hurt each other," Manson said. "I think mankind flatters
itself by thinking it's the final evolution. I think in the next few years that man will create an intelligence that could replace him. And I think that's going to scare everybody."
But he said he's not scared, not even of taking a bullet. "Fear of death
makes life exciting," he said. "Basically, we have the end of the world
to look forward to, and I'd just like to push the fast-forward button and
have a good time on the way."
His bodyguards obviously were worried, though, because the pack of Steven
Seagal clones huddled at stage right wore Kevlar vests underneath their
white T-shirts. But the most trouble they had in Avery Fisher Hall that
day was from the guy who had concealed a camera in his tote bag.
To a room filled with music industry critics, DJs and promoters, Manson
said critics aren't important. "Critics don't buy records," he said. "So
I don't usually listen to them too much. They get their albums for free
in the mail, and then they usually sell them. I used to be one, so I
If the critics didn't like his highly controversial album Antichrist Superstar, it doesn't bother him too much, he added. "I spent five years learning what Marilyn Manson is, and now I think that I know. It's just the beginning for me," Manson said. "I think Antichrist Superstar was really like a first album. We finally learned as a band what it was we wanted to do and say."
Then he took some questions from the audience, most either confirming or
denying rampant Internet rumors. "I was not on the 'Wonder Years,' " Manson said, even though out of his ghoul-white makeup he bears a striking resemblance to main character Kevin Arnold's best friend, Paul Pfeiffer. "The thing with rumors is that in the end it really doesn't matter whether or not they were true, because what's popular is what people believe. Everyone still thinks that Richard Gere put hamsters up his ass or that Rod Stewart had a couple of gallons of cum pumped out of his stomach."
In his case, he said, some of the rumors were based in fact and some of
them weren't. "Everybody's heard the stories of sex onstage. There were
a couple of instances, but those things happened years ago," he said.
"That's not to say I wouldn't do it again."
Of his alleged ministry in the Church of Satan, he said it's all true. "I
struck up a friendship with (Church of Satan founder) Anton LaVey as sort of a
symbolic gesture with a 'priesthood' element. But Satanism is really in
my view a philosophy not unlike (Friedrich) Nietzsche or (Charles) Darwin: an idea of man's self-preservation, man being his own God and rebellion against the mainstream."
The "balance" of God and Satan intrigued him from an early age when he was
in parochial school, he said, just like the different legacies left by Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson. "The character Lucifer in the Bible is to me a hero, because he got kicked out of heaven when he wanted to be God." But he admitted that there's a real stigma attached to the word "Satan."
"I've never minded the rumors," he said. "In public I complain about
them, but at least people are talking." He said it would be better if his
critics didn't make things up to hurt him, but if what he really does and
says didn't shock people, then he'd be worried.
Yes... he's out to shock people. Stop the presses. But some of the people
he shocks are out to prevent him from finding places to perform, as evidenced by his beleaguered Antichrist tour. Manson said he thinks what some of his opponents are doing by spreading these rumors is trying to make him seem so outrageous that even open-minded people will be offended. "I think the reality of Marilyn Manson wasn't enough for the very conservative Christians to suppress what I do," he said. "So I think they had to create some of these stories to help their cause."
Lots of questions from the audience concerned people he'd met or was about
to meet. Of the Spice Girls, who, like Manson, were headed for the MTV Video Music Awards later that night, he declined to comment. Of Snoop Doggy Dogg, he said hectic tour schedules forced the shelving of their planned collaboration, "but that's something I'd still love to do."
Of the hostile reception Marilyn Manson got on this summer's Ozzfest tour,
"I expected that audience to be more open-minded, in the tradition of what
Black Sabbath created. That crowd turned out to be a bunch of drunk guys
who wanted to fight me because I was wearing panty hose."
One woman said her 10-year-old son wanted to go to a Marilyn Manson show,
but she wasn't sure he should be allowed. Manson suggested that she
should go with him, so if there's something that scares or confuses him,
they can discuss it together. "My parents took me to my first KISS
concert, and my dad even dressed up like KISS," he said, "and I've turned
out all right." [Fri., Sept. 5, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]